Paxton Smith is a graduating senior at Lake Highlands High School in Texas. She's also been named valedictorian — meaning she's the highest academically achieving student of her class, and she got to give a speech at graduation.
Paxton submitted a speech for pre-approval, as per the school's policy — but on the day of graduation, Paxton pulled out a new speech she'd written about the "heartbeat bill" that was recently passed in Texas.
In the now-viral speech, Paxton explains the bill before speaking to her peers about how little time six weeks is, stating that most women don't know they're pregnant by then.
Paxton then goes on to talk directly about herself and her peers, stressing the dreams they all have for the future.
She stresses how terrified she is that those dreams could be taken away, meaning her hopes, aspirations, and efforts for her future would no longer matter.
Paxton finishes her speech talking about choosing this day to bring up this issue — on a day where people "will be the most inclined to hear a voice like mine, a woman’s voice" — because the problem cannot wait.
The video — which was posted by @thehippiechick — quickly went viral on TikTok and then moved over to Twitter, where people were extremely impressed with Paxton's bravery and eloquence.
One person called Paxton braver than "the entirety of the Texas legislature."
Even author Jodi Picoult weighed in, saying "we stan a queen."
Paxton told BuzzFeed that she hasn't had much time to sit down and digest her newfound virality, but that she's excited that this will get more people talking about and aware of abortion rights issues in Texas and across the country.
Thank you so much, Paxton, for speaking on harmful abortion laws that threaten the well-being and agency of women in the US. You can watch the speech here (it starts about five minutes in):
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